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Timberwolves end skid, hold off Heat 76-67 in Kelowna

The UNBC Timberwolves showed their mental toughness, holding off a gritty UBCO Heat effort for a hard-fought 76-67 win in Kelowna on Saturday, January 22.

Early in the first quarter, the TWolves came out firing. Alina Shakirova, Sveta Boykova, Emma vanBruinessen, and Rebecca Landry each made an early bucket as UNBC opened up an 8-0 lead in the opening three minutes. Sergey Shchepotkin’s team looked to be more assertive defensively than the previous two outings, not allowing the Heat to find the scoresheet until Alessia Brutto made a free throw at the 5:15 mark.  UBCO would settle in, as reserve guards Aiko Williams and Lauren Foullong would hit jumpers, but the Timberwolves held a slim 20-16 lead after 10 minutes.

The teams traded baskets for much of the second frame, taking turns holding the lead. The game got increasingly physical under the hoop, and the scoring slowed down for both programs. Brutto was able to find some traction, making a pair of jumpers to establish a mild Heat lead, as the TWolves went five minutes without a field goal. UNBC would find its composure as Anastasia Soltes and vanBruinessen made back-to-back jumpers to keep it close. At the half, UNBC clung to a 35-33 lead.

“We wanted to come in and give 110 percent, so we came out gunning and playing fast,” said vanBruinessen. “Every game has ebbs and flows. They went on their run, so we needed to communicate out there. We just needed to contain it.”

vanBruinessen led UNBC with eight points and five boards, while Shakirova had seven points and five rebounds. Laura Garmendia Garcia chipped in with six points and three rebounds. Surprise Munie led the Heat with eight points, while Jaeli Ibbetson was all over the glass with seven points and 10 rebounds in 16 minutes.

The Heat opened the half on an 8-2 run, as Brutto asserted herself on the offensive end with her length and creativity. Jaeli Ibbetson tacked on a three-pointer, and UBCO found themselves building a bit of a cushion. A Shakirova trey and a Landry layup cut into the deficit, but the Heat did well to maintain a slight lead through much of the frame. At the end of the quarter, the Heat held a 52-50 advantage.

Aiko Williams continued to shoot well in the fourth, making consecutive treys to open the quarter, but Boykova answered with a pair of buckets inside for the Timberwolves. The teams traded turnovers and sloppy possessions, with both defenses digging their heels in, making for tough sledding on the scoreboard. A Landry three-pointer turned the momentum in favour of the TWolves, followed by a Sarah Kuklisin steal-and-score, but tension was high in the final minutes.

Williams made her fifth three-pointer on as many attempts with 1:13 left to make it a six-point game, and the Heat turned up the full court pressure in an effort to create turnovers. However, the Timberwolves held the fort long enough to hold on for a 76-67 victory.

“They shot it well. Yesterday and today, that was difficult to contain. A couple players really gave us trouble,” said vanBruinessen, postgame. “We stuck to UNBC basketball and managed to do enough.”

Boykova led UNBC with 16 points to go along with nine rebounds, while her fellow forward vanBruinessen added 12 points and eight boards. Shakirova had 15 points, seven rebounds, and four steals, while Rebecca Landry chipped in with 13 points and four helpers.

For the Heat, Ibbetson overcame a 2-for-15 shooting night, tallying 17 points on 12 made free-throws, along with a big 16 rebound effort. Williams scored 15 points, while Munie had 10 points, six rebounds, and four steals.

With the victory, UNBC gets back in the win column, improving to 5-6, while the Heat fall to 6-7 on the season.

“Having lost both our games since Christmas, this one was a big deal. We wanted to win both this weekend,” said UNBC’s vanBruinessen. “The rest of the semester will be tough, against some really good teams, so this win is something we hope to build on next weekend and the rest of the year.”

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